Integrating Physical and Mental Health

There is a new initiative from the King’s Fund on integrating physical and mental health care. They are setting up an “Integrating Physical and Mental Health Care Learning Network”.

The King’s Fund learning networks provide an opportunity for peer-to-peer learning, challenge and information-sharing. Network members have the opportunity to work through local issues with colleagues facing similar challenges. External speakers will share insights on relevant topics, and the group will also draw on expertise from staff at the Fund, as well as our latest research and publications.

This follows on from their 2016 report “Bringing together physical and mental health: A new frontier for integrated care” on the benefits of integrating physical and mental health.

The report highlights four key challenges:

  • high rates of mental health conditions among people with long-term physical health problem
  • poor management of ‘medically unexplained symptoms’, which lack an identifiable organic cause
  • reduced life expectancy among people with the most severe forms of mental illness, largely attributable to poor physical health
  • limited support for the wider psychological aspects of physical health and illness.

They go on to say that the sorting the first two alone would save a projected £11bn nationally per year.

There are 10 key areas the report addresses where there is “particular scope for improvement”. These range from incorporating mental health into public health programmes; to strengthening primary care for the physical health needs of people with severe mental illnesses; and supporting the mental health and wellbeing of carers.

There are massive benefits in integrating physical and mental health care. Yes, economic benefits, spending NHS money more effectively and therefore providing a better level of service to all. But these economic benefits are surpassed by the human benefits of much better treatment, less long-term intervention, better quality of life, and indeed staying alive.

I think this should be the next big push for Lib Dem healthcare policy. We’ve achieved parity of esteem, thanks to the very hard work of Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb. We’ve moved forward in the integration of health and social care, though a lot more still needs to be done. But the next frontier is ‘health’. Not mental health, not physical health, just ‘health’. Treating the whole person, body and mind, in an integrated, joined-up way.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Nov '17 - 10:31pm

    Kirsten, yes , very much , these are the most important policy areas for us, and as you say and so do I regularly , a holistic approach.

    We need to emphasise this whole person concept as a tangible area of understanding.

    The very heart of this is what I have written and spoken about for some years.

    It connects with our work, those like us, who are in the arts too.

    Seeing the quality of life as essential for policy, is a must.We must pronounce and promote this clearly and fully, with our health , and , further to your other article , education team too.

  • The starting point in helping to deal with life’s challenges is to ensure that everyone can have a roof over their head and the resources to live a decent life. The fear of unemployment is one reason that people are forced to stay in jobs where they are being bullied. This a major cause of problems in our society. The process is leave your job, have no money, increased depression, see doctor, use up expensive resources, low life expectency

  • I’m sorry but we have no way achieved parity of esteem – it was a hollow policy because it received no funding, something that has been exacerbated by current funding pressures, and the lack of a workforce strategy (certainly in England) to ensure existing MH staff stay, and new people come into the workforce. So before we start picking up another ‘hot health potato’, lets finish of properly cooking the first one!

    And don’t get me started on integration…

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